The US Department of Defense first financed GPS to help guide military planes and missiles. Later, the system was made public and products became available to help guide cars. Despite these beginnings, the most common GPS enabled devices are not vehicles but smartphones.
Every modern smartphone contains a GPS receiver. As a result, 400 million GPS chips are built into smartphones each year. GPS works well for navigating vehicles, but there are at least 3 reasons it does not scale down well for guiding people in their daily activities:
1. Individuals spend 80% of their time indoors (source Strategy Analytics) where GPS coverage is poor. GPS systems fail indoors in the same way that they fail for cars in tunnels.
2. GPS accuracy for civilian use is good enough to locate a car on a road, but when it comes to guiding individuals, precision down to a few centimeters is required. That kind of accuracy is way beyond the capabilities of current GPS systems.
3. A GPS receiver chip consumes power every time it calculates its position. That power consumption can be a critical issue for the small batteries in smartphones. Making matters worse, people move more erratically than vehicles so their location must be checked more frequently.
For all these reasons, we need a new positioning technology besides GPS. Ideally, this new technology could be deployed indoors (at home and everywhere) within affordable picocells and would eventually make its way into our phones helping us locate all of our belongings.
GPS was powered by 24 satellites in orbit around our planet. PicoGPS will be powered by 7 billion picocells around every person.